There's lots you can do on a layover at Abu Dhabi International Airport without running the risk of cutting it fine for catching your connecting flight. You have a choice of transport options to take you from any of the airport’s three terminals, express bus, taxi, or private car, and into the metropolis that is the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
If you're aware of the length of your Abu Dhabi layover before you arrive then a little forward planning goes a long way and will help you to maximize the time you have no matter how brief it is. Keep in mind that roads can get congested during the peak hours so it may take longer than you expect to get in and out of the city. Make sure you know which terminal your Abu Dhabi connection departs from before you set off sightseeing or you could find yourself in the wrong one while watching your plane taxiing along the runway getting ready to take-off without you.
6 hour layover in Abu Dhabi
When you have just six hours on your Abu Dhabi layover, you'll need to spend them in the airport as you won't be eligible for a transit visa and without one, it's not possible for you to go into the city. That doesn't mean a short layover in Abu Dhabi is a hardship though as once you've dropped your bags off at a luggage locker service, you can make the most of the precious minutes you have with a pampering session at one of the airport's deluxe spas. Follow that with a relaxed meal in one of the classier restaurants and after a browse around the duty-free stores, you'll be ready to take off feeling like a new person.
- You'll find the TOSA spa in the Skypark Plaza of Terminal 1 where they offer full-body massages, foot massages, pedicures, manicures, and other beauty treatments.
- If you've had a long flight and need to freshen up, you'll find premium shower facilities in all of the airport lounges that you can access for a small fee.
8 hour layover in Abu Dhabi
Before you even start contemplating what you're going to do on your eight-hour layover in Abu Dhabi, you'll need to acquire a transit visa so you can go out of the airport without running the risk of getting arrested. You can apply online before arrival so long as you are a national of one of the UAE's green list countries.
If you have your transit visa, what you will find on an eight-hour layover in Abu Dhabi is that time is of the essence. After clearing passport control and collecting your bags, that time will have diminished to around six and a half or maybe seven if there's no queues to contend with. Add to those figures the amount of time it’ll take to get in and out of the city plus how long you’ll need to check-in for your connecting flight, and you won't need to use a calculator to get the general drift that the one thing you're running out of is plenty of time.
Forget using public transport and take a four-hour private tour of Abu Dhabi. The driver-guide will collect you from the terminal and drop you there when the tour is finished so you'll be saving money too. You choose what you want to see and can stop whenever you want.
- To be granted a transit visa, you'll need to prove you have flights in and out of Abu Dhabi and are staying between eight hours to four days only.
- The bus into the city takes around forty-five minutes and the trip by car at least thirty whether it's a taxi or a chauffeur-driven limo.
10 hour layover in Abu Dhabi
When you have ten hours or thereabouts between flights you can start to enjoy your layover in Abu Dhabi more. Leave your bags at any Abu Dhabi suitcase storage facility and take a taxi to the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Saadiyat Cultural District. After you've seen what there is to see there, take a stroll around the Saadiyat Marina or along Saadiyat Beach for a breath of fresh air before spoiling yourself with a meal at the Saadiyat Island Beach Club.
- The Louvre Abu Dhabi is an enormous art museum with eight thousand square meters of galleries to explore, so you'll need a couple of hours at least to see it all.
- You'll need to acquire a day pass to eat at the Saadiyat Island Beach Club. They're available online through the official website. Prices vary depending on the day of the week and number of people attending.
12 hour layover in Abu Dhabi
On a twelve-hour layover in Abu Dhabi you'll be able to explore the city in more depth. If your legs are stiff after your flight, after stashing your baggage in an Abu Dhabi luggage locker, consider hiring a bicycle and pedaling along the cycle path on Corniche Road. It's an eight-kilometer-long ride which will reward you with incredible views of the Abu Dhabi skyline and Corniche Beach. There's lots of cafes along the way where you can stop to take a break or head over the breakwater to the Marina Mall, park your cycle and indulge in some luxurious retail therapy, or replenish your energy with a slap-up meal.
- There are several cycle stations along the length of Corniche Road where you can pick up a bike, tandem, tricycle, and even one for three people.
- The Marina Mall has an observation tower which is the best place to get panoramic views of Abu Dhabi or if you're on a late layover, is an incredible spot to watch the sunset from.
24 hour layover in Abu Dhabi
Even a layover in Abu Dhabi that's twenty-four hours long will fly by – no pun intended – so try and plan as much as you can before getting there. Taking a full-day tour of the city is a must-do whether you do it by coach or in a privately driven limo. Spend time investigating the atmospheric souks where you can pick up some unusual souvenirs, buy leather goods, or stock up on spices. Hit the water for a private, sixty-minute speedboat ride and you'll get to see Abu Dhabi's amazing skyline from a different angle and it's one that will have you snapping selfies with it in the background. An overnight layover in Abu Dhabi gives you enough time to try all these experiences.
- If you're on a long layover in Abu Dhabi and traveling with kids, you won't want to miss either the YAS Waterworld or Warner Bros World. They're both superb activities the kids will be thrilled with.
- If speedboats aren't your thing, consider taking a more sedate dhow cruise instead or even hiring a dhow and captaining it yourself.